Feb 26 2015

Shackled Hand

During the 1850s, plantation owners brought their slaves to East Bexar County. To protect their ownership of these slaves and themselves from slave revolt they demanded intervention by local government. In accordance with Texas State Law, ordinances were enacted by the City of San Antonio to regulate the behavior of slaves and free people of color. These Ordinances also regulated the behavior of whites in their interaction with slaves and free people of color.


An Ordinance - To regulate the conduct of Slaves and Free Persons of Color in the City of San Antonio

Section 1st – Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of San Antonio –

That it shall be the duty of the City Marshal to cause the city bell to be rung every night from the first day of April until the first day of October, at 10 o’clock p.m. and from the first day of October until the first day of April, at 9 o’clock p.m., and a second time, fifteen minutes thereafter, for which duty he shall receive of five dollars in addition to his salary.

Section 2nd – Every slave who shall be found at large in the streets of said city or off the premises of his or her owner, employer, or the person having the legal charge of such slave, after fifteen minutes, after the hour specified in the preceding section, without a written pass or permit, from the master, mistress or such person having the legal custody or charge of such slave, which pass shall not extend beyond one night and shall state the purpose for which it was given, shall be apprehended by any marshal, or police officer of the city, and be detained in custody, in jail of said city, or otherwise, until the next morning, when the marshal or police officer making the arrest of said slave, shall report such arrest to the Mayor, who shall immediately cause the owner, or employer, or such person having charge or custody of such slave, to be notified of the arrest, by written notice posted on the door of the mayor’s office for three days.

Section 3rd – That the owner, employer, or person having the legal custody or charge of any slave so arrested, may reclaim and receive possession of the same, upon paying the mayor or city marshal, the sum of two dollars and fifty cents which shall discharge all costs of arrest, commitment, notice, and liberation. If the owner, employer, or person having legal charge of such slave, being notified as foresaid, shall not appear within one day after such notification, reclaim such slave, and pay said sum, such slave shall, by order of the mayor, receive not to exceed twenty lashes, or be employed at work on the public streets, or otherwise, not to exceed five days. If the owner, employer, or person having custody and charge of such slave shall appear, refuse to pay said sum, and request that the punishment of whipping be imposed, then, only such punishment shall be inflicted, and such owner, employer, or person shall pay to the Marshall one dollar, and no other costs, after which payment and punishment, such slave shall be released, every slave so arrested, if a runaway, shall be delivered unto the Sheriff of Bexar County.

Section 4th – That if any person employed in the business or occupation of retailing spirituous, vinous or other intoxicating liquors or drink, shall permit, suffer or allow any slave to congregate in or about his or her store, shop or place of business, or shall suffer any slave to remain therein any unreasonable time, such person shall be fined not less than five nor more than twenty-five dollars for the first offence, and not less than ten, nor more than fifty dollars for each subsequent offence.

Section 5th – That it shall not be lawful for the owner of any slave or slaves, or any person having the legal custody or control of any slave or slaves, as agent, executor, administrator or guardian, to permit or allow any such slave or slaves to rent or hire any house, room, tenement or premises, separate or apart from the premises occupied by the owner or person having the legal control or management of such slave or slaves, or to occupy any house, room, tenement or premises, separate, and apart from the premises of the owner or such other persons, unless it be upon the premises occupied by one or more white persons, who may have hired the services of such slave or slaves. Any and every person offending against such provisions of this section shall be subject to a fine not exceeding fifty dollars for each offence.

Section 6th – That every person who shall rent or lease any house, building, or room to any slave or slaves, or to any white person to be used or occupied by any slave or slaves, or shall suffer, permit, or allow any house, building, or room owned or leased by such person to be occupied by a slave or slaves separate and apart from the owner, employer, or other person having the legal control and management of such slave or slaves, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding fifty dollars for each offence.

Section 7th – That every slave or slaves, who shall be found occupying any house, building, room, or premises separate, and apart from the premises of the owner or person having the legal charge or control of such slaves or slave, such house, room, building or premises not being occupied by some white person or persons, to whom the services of such slave or slaves may have been hired, shall be arrested, and punished by the infliction of not to exceed thirty-nine lashes, provided that the owner or person having the legal control of such slave, may relieve him or her of such punishment by the payment of a fine to be assessed by the Mayor not to exceed twenty-five Dollars and the costs of the arrest and proceedings.

Section 8th – That every person owning or having legal control of a slave who shall suffer or permit, any such slave to hire his or her time, or to go at large and trade as a free person, shall be fined in the sum not exceeding fifty dollars for each offence.

Section 9th – That it shall not be lawful for the owner of any slave, or for any person having the legal control and management of any slave to give to any such slave a permit or license to seek labor or employment for a longer time than one week, and every person offending against the provisions of this section shall be fines in a sum not exceeding twenty-five dollars.

Section 10th – That every person who shall hire or employ the services of any slave without the written license or permit from the owner, or person having the legal control of such slaves, unless it be from such owner or person directly, shall be fined in a sum not to exceed twenty-five dollars for each offence.

Section 11th – That every slave who shall offer for sale any valuable produce, or other article, without written consent or license from his or her owner or overseer, employer, or the person having the legal charge of such slave, shall be punished by the infliction, of not exceeding twenty lashes, which punishment may be remitted by the Mayor upon the payment by such owner, overseer, employer, or other person, of a fine not less than one nor more than ten dollars and the costs of the proceedings.

Section 12th. That every slave who shall be found going at large and trading as a free person, shall be arrested and punished by the infliction of not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.

Section 13th – That no slave or free person of color shall use, carry, have or keep in his or her possession, any fire-arm, or any sword, bowie-knife or other deadly weapon, or any gunpowder; any slave so offending shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by the infliction of not exceeding thirty nine lashes. The owner or person having control of such slave, may, at the discretion of the Mayor, relieve such slave from the punishment by the payment of a fine to be fixed by the Mayor, of not less than one, nor more than ten dollars and costs. This section shall not be construed as to prevent the owner or person having the control of any slave, from sending such slave with a written order to procure such arm, weapon or ammunition, as he may desire, or from employing such slave in carrying such articles from one place to another.

Section 14th – That it shall not be lawful for more than five slaves to congregate together at any place except on their owners’, agents’, or employers’ premises, unless it be for the purpose of religious worship, and not then without the presence of at least one respectable slaveholder, or except it be at a ball authorized in accordance with the next section, at which there shall be present some respectable slaveholder, or a marshal or police officer, or other white person authorized by the Mayor to control the same. Every slave offending against the provisions of this section shall, on conviction, be punished by the infliction of not exceeding twenty lashes, which punishment may be remitted by the Mayor, upon payment by the owner or person having control of such slave, of a fine to be fixed by the Mayor, of not less than five nor more than ten dollars and the cost of the proceedings.

Section 15th – That every person who shall give a ball to negroes, or permit a negro ball upon his or her premises, without written permission from the Mayor, shall be fined in a sum not to exceed twenty dollars.

Section 16th – That it shall be the duty of the Marshal or assistant Marshal upon written request of the owner, or person having legal charge and control of any slave, to whip such slave, not to exceed thirty-nine lashes, upon the bare back, for which he shall be entitled to receive from such owner or person having such charge and control, the sum of one, dollar, to be paid upon the presentation of such request.

Section 17th – That no slave or free person of color shall be permitted to play at cards, or any other game of chance, and any slave or free person of color so offending shall, on conviction, be punished by the infliction of not exceeding twenty lashes, which punishment may be remitted by the mayor upon payment by the owner, or person having control over such slave, a fine to be assessed by the Mayor, of not less than five nor more than ten dollars, and the cost of the proceedings.

Section 18th – Any white person found playing at cards, or any game of chance, with any slave, or slaves, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not less than five nor more than seventy-five dollars.

Section 19th – That all violations of this ordinance shall be prosecuted before the Mayor of this city, and all fines collected by virtue thereof shall be paid to the Mayor, one half for the informer, the other half for the use of the city.

Section 20th – That every white person who shall be convicted and fined for any violation of this ordinance, and shall refuse, or fail to pay such fine, and all costs adjudged against him, shall be imprisoned in the city jail for such time that will be adjudged by the mayor, not to exceed one day for every two dollars and fifty cents of such fine and costs, the last fraction of the sum – if any – counting as one day, provided such imprisonment shall not exceed twenty days.

Section 21st – That all ordinances and parts of ordinances heretofore passed, respecting slaves and free persons of color, are hereby repealed.

That this ordinance to take effect and be in force immediately.

Adopted Aug. 25th 1860

Signed Thos H. Stribling, Mayor pro tem

Attest: C. E. Jefferson, Secretary